Being Present For The Lasts

by Christine Burke
the lasts
Carmen MartA-nez BanAs / iStock

On the day you become a parent, you eagerly anticipate all of the first your child will achieve someday. You wait patiently for the first day they roll over on their own, the first time they eat rice cereal, the first time they sleep through the night, the first tooth, their first steps, the first time they smile at you with a toothless grin and say, “Mama.”

All of those sweet first moments are celebrated and cherished, announced on Facebook and Instagram for the world to see. Baby books are filled with dates from the year of firsts. Every milestone is a victory. Every step toward childhood is exciting, new, and exhilarating. Moms and dads eagerly share and judge each other by how quickly their babies hit the firsts.

But, what about the lasts? Do you remember those as clearly? Can you remember those fleeting moments when your child did the last of something as they moved on toward more independence? My father was fond of reminding me that although everyone remembers the firsts, almost no one remembers the lasts.

And as my children are becoming teens, as I watch their childhood slip through my fingers like sand, I am realizing that there are so many things they stopped doing long ago. There are so many special moments that suddenly just stopped one day, and I can’t recall just when I lost those precious moments.

When was the last night I tiptoed into his room to see him fast asleep with a binkie half hanging out of his mouth?

When was the last time she pulled footie pajamas out of her drawer and put them on for bedtime, backwards and inside out?

When was the last time I heard the sound of bare toddler feet padding on my hardwood floor?

Why can’t I remember the very last day I had butt paste, diapers, and baby wash on my grocery list?

When was that last tub bath, the one where I gently caressed their baby curls and splashed with them as they were covered in soft bubbles?

When was the last time I could feel his infant self snuggled next to my neck, finally giving in to the slumber he’d been fighting for an hour? Why can’t I remember the date that I last rocked her to sleep in that softly lit nursery I planned for months before her arrival?

On what date, what time, what minute did I no longer have a baby who crawled in this house? When did I wake up and have two humans who walked upright and spoke in complete sentences?

When was the last bottle ever? When did I get rid of the bottles, pack them away, and give them to another mom? Where did the sippy cups go?

When was the last day he had a toddler tantrum? His tantrums were epic, and it seems that I’d remember that momentous occasion when he found his words and was able to calmly tell me he wanted more milk or that his shoes were untied and he needed help.

When was the last time she fell asleep on the couch, exhausted from a day of play and wonder, and I gently picked her up and tucked her into her bed? As she lay asleep, I’d stroke her cheek and marvel at how different a room was with her sleeping than awake. When did that stop?

When did I stop seeing the toddler strapped into his car seat from my rearview mirror? On what day did he start sitting next to me up front, fighting over radio stations and arguing with me over directions? When will be the last day he sits with me before he starts driving, I wonder.

When, and this one breaks my heart just a tiny bit, did they stop calling me “Mommy”? When did I become just “Mom”? I know they’ll always need me, but the sweet sounds of “Mama” and “Mommy” were always my favorite. Why, oh why, can I not remember the very last time they called me by the name they first gave me?

There are so many lasts behind me, yet I have so many firsts ahead, too—first dates, first driver’s permits, first nights away at college. And, yes, I’ll remember those days fondly, and I worry that they, too, will happen too fast for me to keep up. We will take pictures of him beaming by his first car and her next to her prom dates. I will write sad posts on Facebook about my baby being accepted to college and moving out of the house. But if the last few years have taught me anything, I’ll be sure to pay attention and stay in the moment so I can witness the lasts, too.

Because saving the best for last is never a bad thing.